How old is the oldest clock you ask? If the Old Testament was written
somewhere around 1450 B.C… then the first clock was created a
scant 450 years later… somewhere around 1000 B.C. It looked a bit
like a T… with the top facing east before noon and then turned to
face west after noon. The shadow formed at the base told the hours.
There is another Shadow Clock that was unearthed during excavations
in Egypt which consisted of a wall and a flight of steps. The
principal is essentially the same as the Shadow Clock mentioned
above. As the shadow of the wall fell across the steps… the number
of steps covered by the shadow told the hour.
The dial of the Shadow Clock is mentioned in the Second Book of Kings
in the Old Testament. I won’t quote the whole passage as this might
tend to border on tedium and we all know we wouldn’t want that. Still
for those who want to delve into this… the passage begins with:
“And Hezekiah said unto Isaiah…”
And although I am going to be showing you an Egyptian Shadow Clock in
the form of a T… another form of a shadow clock was the obelisk…
a vertical spire around which a circle was formed demarcating the
hours by the shadows formed by the sun. I mention this type because
there’s a fascinating aspect to it. The Egyptians observed that when
the shadow of the obelisk was at it’s shortest … it always pointed
in the same direction… regardless of the season. Today we call this
direction the meridian… a line joining north and south.
So… imagine you’re lost in the desert somewhere. It’s daylight.
Sand all around you. No landmarks. No compass. No watch. No nothing
… except for a twig you happen to be carrying around in your back
pocket. If I remember correctly… the book on desert-traveling
clearly states… and I quote: “Ye who shall travel the deserts
shall keep a twig in thine back pocket.” This is not without sound
You need direction. It is still early. You grab thine twig and stick
it deep into the sand… and you wait for the shadow to be the
shortest … and now you have a line going north to south. And you
can start walking in the direction of your choice. Except that is…
for one little thing. Which direction is north… and which direction
is south? I say take your pick. You’ve got a fifty-fifty chance of
getting out of there alive… which is a whole lot better than if you
didn’t have a twig at all.
Which brings us to that ancient but wise saying which states… and I
quote: “A man is not worth his weight in shekels if he does not have
his twig.” Rumor has is that there are some out there who have
re-written this adage and have changed the word “twig” to “trunk”. I
do not understand the concept behind this thinking. In any case…
the wisdom behind the old adage is immeasurable. Compasses break.
Watches stop. But a twig is forever. Or something. I don’t know.
For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at www.tyler-adam.com where you will
scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that says
Current Tidbits… and then click on it in order to view an Egyptian
And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.